Framed within this wider perspective, the paper explores some of the unspoken politics of the latest ‘big thing’ known as the MOOC movement. It offers a theoretical lens to help reveal some of the tensions and inherent contradictions hidden in the portrayal of MOOCs to the public. On the premise that ‘It is theory that decides what we can observe’ (Einstein; cited in Stachel, 2012, p.238) a critical discourse analysis of MOOCs in the media is reported in terms of a number of questions: Who is telling the MOOC story and why? What story is being told? How is the story being told? Whose story is not being told? More specifically, in exploring these questions the paper reports a study of how MOOCs have been portrayed in Irish newspapers between 2012 and the end of 2015 (Brown, Costello, Donlon, Nic Giolla Mhichil & Kirwan, 2015).
What relatively few people know is that according to Forbes Magazine the world’s first MOOC was taught in Ireland. Although the Openness movement has a much longer history, the recent growth of the MOOC has attracted unprecedented media attention. Arguably, this attention is what sets the MOOC movement apart from previous iterations of openness. The images that are being presented about MOOCs through popular media are not only interesting, especially in the Irish context as the self-acclaimed Silicon Valley of Europe, but also potentially influential in shaping the views of politicians, policy-makers and the public. Accordingly, this research builds on several previous studies of MOOCs in the media (see Kovanovi, Joksimovic, Gaševic, Siemens & Hatala, 2015; Selwyn, Bulfin & Pangrazio, 2015) by reporting a number of unique Irish developments over this period.
At the macro-level these developments serve to remind us that higher education systems are designed from a colour palette of conflicting political and pedagogical assumptions. A type of double vision is required, which is split between two primary colours (the tradition of the Learning Society and the growing influence of the Knowledge Economy), to understand the grand narratives, competing discourses and multiple layers imbued in the languages of persuasion surrounding the MOOC movement. Finally, the paper argues that less attention needs to be placed on the ‘how’ of MOOCs with more on the ‘why’ and the ‘big ideas’ we are seeking to achieve in the future.
Brown, M., Costello, E., Donlon, E., Nic Giolla Mhichil, M., & Kirwan, C. (2015). Hold the front page: The story of MOOCs in the Irish media. Invited paper at WOW Conference: Europe Embraces MOOCs, Rome Italy, 30th November.
Kovanovi, V., Joksimovic, S., Gaševic, D., Siemens, G., & Hatala, M. (2015). What public media reveals about MOOCs: A systematic analysis of news reports. British Journal of Educational Technology, 46 (3), 510-527.
Selwyn, N., Bulfin, S., & Pangrazio, L. (2015). Massive open online change? Exploring the discursive construction of the ‘MOOC’ in newspapers. Higher Education Quarterly, 69 (2), 175-192.
Stachel, J. (2002). Einstein from ‘B to Z’. Einstein Studies Volume 9. The Center for Einstein Studies. Boston University, Boston.
Toffler, A. (1974). Learning for tomorrow: The role of the future in education. New York: Vintage Books.